Patricia Brown (Photo by Brooke Marsh)
Patricia Brown came to VCU last fall with more than 20 years of design and design direction experience. In 2008, she founded Patricia Brown Designs, a high-end fashion, jewelry and accessory design firm. She has worked for Ralph Lauren, the Calvin Klein Collection, Adrienne Vittadini, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, where she was vice president of design. Here, she shares advice for designers, her favorite fashion sites and her vision for VCU's Department of Fashion.
Richmond magazine: What do you hope is conveyed to the audience at Sunday’s student fashion show?
Patricia Brown: I want them to see the strength of our program and our students and to give them a good show. It should be an exciting event for them and something they were really happy they came to. We are live streaming this year and at the Depot. We have more demand than seats.
RM: What is a show you’ve attended that left an indelible impression?
PB: One was in Paris when Lacroix was designing for the House of Patou. We sat up on these little, high chairs. They played opera, and the dresses were so big that they filled the room.
RM: As someone who has worked for other designers and for yourself, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
PB: It was from Frank Rizzo, when he was head of Parsons. As a designer, you have to learn how to “spin on a dime.” You always have to reinvent yourself, to be able to fill the need, to cause excitement, to reinvent yourself to meet the task. Things move so quickly, so you have to be able to spin on dime.
RM: What are some of your goals for the program here?
PB: In short and long term, I want to bring a lot more attention to the program, a lot more awareness about program in places other than Richmond and [awareness about] the strength of the program. Some people aren’t as aware of it as they should be. … I also want to build on the crossover between merchandising and design. They work together closely in the business. You have to have an understanding of each other’s role. The designer can be great but still fail if the business plan isn’t good.
RM: What are your go-to fashion sites?
PB: I love the Sartorialist. I love Net-a-Porter and, of course, I look at Women’s Wear Daily and BoF, the Business of Fashion.
RM: What has been your most challenging design project?
Having my own business, though all have been been challenging in some aspect.
RM: When did you know it was time to go out on your own?
In 2008 — a bad year — I quit a very successful job; I was vice president of design at Ann Taylor. I was a little burned out and always wanted to do my own thing. I also wanted more time with my two boys before they headed to [college].
RM: What has surprised you the most about Richmond?
How much there is to do and what a creative place it is. I love the whole idea of First Fridays and all the other art openings. I’ve also run into people [from] my former life … people I went to school with at William and Mary, even high school friends from Northern Virginia.